I thought I’d start a series of posts about Townsville’s lost treasures – buildings that have disappeared from the cityscape that were once local landmarks or popular places to meet. I’ll look at places like theatres, hotels, cafes, shops and other once-loved icons.
That block of land next to the Police Station in Sturt Street that’s been vacant for many years, but is now a construction site; was once home to the largest theatre in
North Queensland – the Wintergarden.
|Wintergarden Theatre, Townsville, 1943. Image: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection|
Townsville's Wintergarden was one of a chain of Wintergardens built in the 1920s in regional Queensland cities, that included Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Maryborough. Owned and built by the partnership of George Birch, E.J. Carroll and Virgil Coyle, the Wintergarden theatres were built to conform to a 'tropical theatre concept' and were of an unprecedented size for the time.
The Wintergardens featured carpeted vestibules with dress circles, special balconies and an interior fern garden. Special attention was paid to ventilation and seating was made of slatted timber, all to ensure comfort in the Queensland summer.
|Interior view of the Wintergarden, 1926. Image: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.|
The Wintergarden was home to live performances as well as moving pictures, which later included 'the talkies' - movies with sound. The opening night performance was a production of Shakespeare's Henry VIII by Alan Wilkie's Shakespearean Company. The Wintergarden was officially opened on Saturday, 4th June 1927 by the Mayor of Townsville. The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported:
We cannot find adjectives and superlatives strong enough to describe the thousand and one innovations of the new Wintergarden Theatre in Sturt Street, which will be opened to-night by His Worship the Mayor (Alderman W.J. Heatley). It is truly the most sumptuous and stupendous theatre ever erected outside the Metropolitan area.
The Wintergarden was sold in the early 1970s and the building was left to decay until it was beyond economic repair. It was hoped that at least the facade of the building could be saved, but when the roof was found to contain asbestos it was deemed beyond saving. On the 8th March 1991, the last vestiges of the building were demolished.